New Albany seeking to find identity
After more than a month of inside workouts because of mostly bad weather, the New Albany High School baseball team finally walked outside March 27 and got some room to stretch and throw on the school stadium's new turf field.
The Eagles hoped the sunny, albeit cool, day also would help shed some light on their identity in the wake of losing 12 players to graduation, including starters at every position, from last year's Division I district semifinalist team.
"We have six seniors and a strong junior class," said senior pitcher and shortstop Grant Oehler, one of four seniors who saw varsity time a year ago. "We know things could be a little rough, but we'll have some strengths. We worked hard in the offseason."
Oehler and sophomore James Tennenbaum (P/C) combined to pitch about 10 innings last year, according to 26th-year coach Bob Talpas. Also in the senior class are Matt Brosnan (C), Jared Mandel (CF), Craig Parker (2B), Bobby Tarnapol (1B/OF) and Zach Wedekind (2B).
"They're good kids, but they're untested," said Talpas, whose team went 19-9 overall last year, losing to Pickerington Central 1-0 in a district semifinal. "We just haven't seen much live pitching yet (as of the last week of March) and we can't take infield inside. You get more of an idea of how things will be outside. There are just some things you can't simulate in a gym."
Also on the roster are juniors Brad Blaha (OF), Robert Chaddock (1B/OF), Victor Chamberlain (OF), Michael Colgan (OF), Devon De Silvestri (P/3B), Austin Franz (P/1B), Ross Henze (3B/1B/P/OF), Cal Krebs (OF), Adam Krey (3B/SS/P), Daniel Machado (2B/SS) and Tommy Parsons (P/1B/SS).
Talpas expected last week that Parsons will emerge as the Eagles' top pitcher.
"He keeps the ball down, throws strikes and has good velocity," Talpas said. "He also has a decent changeup and breaking ball."
The Eagles went 10-4 in the OCC-Capital Division last season to finish third behind Big Walnut (12-2) and eventual district-champion Olentangy Orange (11-3) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (8-5), Delaware (6-8), Mount Vernon (5-9), Hilliard Bradley (3-10) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
New Albany earned the fifth seed in the district tournament, took a first-round bye and defeated Franklin Heights 7-2 before losing to Pickerington Central.
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy. The Braves last year won their second consecutive league title and first district title since 2006, going 19-10 and losing to Grove City 11-1 in five innings in a Division I regional semifinal.
Among the Eagles' losses to graduation were their top two pitchers, Wynston McMartin and Shane Kriss, both of whom were first-team all-league honorees and now are at Miami University. They were first- and second-team all-district, respectively.
McMartin hit .390 with six home runs last year, and Kriss was 6-2 with a 1.82 ERA.
New Albany opened April 1 against Teays Valley, the first of five games in six days this week. The Eagles' OCC-Capital opener is Monday, April 8, at Orange.
"How we do is going to depend on our pitching," Tarnapol said. "I think most of the guys on this team will be able to hit. If our pitchers can strike some guys out and put our defense in a good position, we're going to be OK."
Talpas plans to retire after the season and hand the head coaching duties over to assistant Justin Grieger.
"(Talpas) is a great coach," said Oehler, who first met him at a youth camp several years ago and admitted being "intimidated" by Talpas. "He built this program from the ground up into a solid, competitive, consistent Division I program. We know it's our job as players to keep it there."